YANQING, China (Reuters) -Germany’s Hannah Neise won the women’s skeleton on Saturday, making it an astonishing six sliding golds out of six for her country at the Beijing Winter Olympics.
German dominance has fast become the norm in the Yanqing hills but the skeleton race also brought firsts, as silver-winning Australian Jaclyn Narracott became the first female slider outside of Europe and North America to claim a medal in the sport.
Kimberley Bos of the Netherlands took her country’s first skeleton medal with the bronze.
Skeleton sliders use slight tweaks of muscle to steer as they plummet head-first down a twisting ice track at speeds up to 130 kph.
Narracott led at the halfway mark, but with eight other contenders within 0.53 seconds of her time, the door to the medals was still open.
Suited in iguana-like yellow and green, Narracott swooped down the “Flying Snow Dragon” pearl-white track, barely brushing its sloped sides in her two runs.
But Germany’s Hannah Neise came diving down after her like an angry hornet in yellow and black. She ricocheted against the walls towards the end, but sheer momentum carried her ahead, and she shaved 0.59 seconds off the track record.
The last run of the night gave Neise a total time of 4:07.62, 0.62 seconds ahead of the Australian and 0.84 seconds ahead of the Dutchwoman.
It follows her compatriot Christopher Grotheer’s gold on Friday, Germany’s first ever in the men’s event.
“I felt very confident, especially today. I don’t know how to describe it,” Neise told reporters.
“I worked a lot on my mental health and it was on point today.
“It means a lot, especially for skeleton sliders. We haven’t had so many medals the past years, and we are very proud to represent our country and our federation. It’s a step forward for us.”
Narracott was jubilant, saying: “The medal is a childhood dream come true, and then from a sliding point of view to be the first (Australian Olympic medal), we had some pretty good girls ahead of me which, without them, I wouldn’t be here. To be the first is pretty cool.”
It was a bittersweet race for the U.S. Virgin Islands’ Katie Tannenbaum, who finished last.
While Tannenbaum achieved her dream of reaching the Olympics, she was far from able to show her best, having done just two training runs after spending more than a week in isolation due to a positive COVID-19 test.
“I was improving with that last run and that lets me know what could have been, but I’m just happy to be here at this point,” she said.
(Reporting by David Kirton; Editing by Hugh Lawson and Clare Fallon)